I’ve been a mediator and conflict management coach for a long time. After watching lots of people fight, I think I’m pretty well informed about the most successful argument-winning tactics. Next time you argue with a loved one, try any or all of these:
1. Call them names. Particularly those that start with A, B, C and F. This approach gives you a sense of moral superiority and will help guarantee that they start acting badly in their outrage.
2. Point out their deficits. Maybe it’s their lack of intelligence, always a winning choice. Or their unattractiveness. Or whatever deficit you just know will most aggravate or hurt them. After all, this is a person you say you love. Isn’t all fair in love and war?
3. Blame them for the argument. They started it, after all, by doing X, Y or Z. Or by being born. Things like this are never your fault. You are simply an innocent victim of their problem and it’s important that they know that. Again.
4. Gloat. Whenever you score a point with your winning tactics, be sure to point it out to them and demonstrate your glee. Your goal here is to continue making yourself feel superior and make them feel as awful as possible.
5. Scream, yell, weep loudly, or go deadly silent. Whatever way you show anger, just be sure to do it thoroughly and with great drama. What better way to get their attention, scare them, or steal the show. The more histrionics, the better.
6. Use terms like always and never. You’re always trying to control me. You never help with the workload around here. This tactic’s a good one because it guarantees the argument will get sidetracked into new, unpleasant territory as the other person tries to defend themselves against those all or nothing terms.
7. Remind them you’re right, they’re wrong. And not just 50%, but the whole darn 100%. Since you already did #2 above, it’s clear that their failures and character flaws have made them wrong yet again. You, of course, are always right, particularly when you’re angry.
8. Refuse to apologize. Tell yourself, they were awful too, so they should have to reach out to you first. Tell yourself that again. The more you tell yourself this story, the more justified you will feel in refusing to admit you contributed to the mess.
9. Repeat any of the above during the next argument. Go ahead, make an unhealthy pattern of it. Practice how not to do it so that it becomes such an ingrained behavior that one day you wake up and think, how did we get here?
10. Between arguments, make up, but only on the surface. Don’t really invest in the kind of conversation that will cause less debris in the relationship. Don’t really talk things out and get to the heart of the matter for you both. After all, you want to be ready to win again in the next argument.
It’s so much more work to really talk things out and so much more fun to have biting, nasty arguments that leave them licking their wounds for days to come. I’m a mediator and coach, so I should know. I get your call when the arguments have gotten so bad that you want it all to be over—or the other person does.
How I wish you’d called me much earlier. But I guess you were too busy.